Brexit

Express
EVERY European Union measure to which the UK has formally objected since last year’s referendum vote has been passed into law, new research has shown. Campaigners said the statistics showed that if Brussels was prepared to ignore Britain’s views while we were in the union, it was misguided of anti-Brexit groups to claim the UK could retain influence by staying closely tied to the EU single market. Since last June’s referendum, the UK has taken part in 102 votes of the EU’s decision-making Council of Ministers, said pro-Brexit group Change Britain. 
Of these, the UK voted against or abstained – which is also regarded under the rules as opposing – 17 of the measures, or about 17 per cent. All subsequently went on to become law and could cost the UK £64million.

Mail
Brexiteers have demanded a clean break from Brussels after it was revealed every single new EU law opposed by Britain since the referendum has been passed. Campaigners said the figures showed why the UK needs to break free from EU regulations. Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, Britain has taken part in 102 votes of the EU’s Council of Ministers. In 17 of those, the country either abstained or voted against the proposed measures. All were subsequently pushed through, bringing in a raft of rules that disadvantage the UK’s interests. Research by campaign group Change Britain found the new regulations added £473.3million to the EU budget, of which the share paid by British taxpayers works out at £63.6million. Motions the UK refused to endorse – but has nonetheless been forced to accept – include new common rules for ports. Prior to becoming Brexit Secretary, David Davis warned that this measure ‘will interfere with the commercial freedom of our ports and undermine their ability to attract investment in essential national infrastructure’, claiming that up to 400,000 jobs could be affected.

Times
Senior government officials have accused Brussels of trying to undermine David Davis before the next round of Brexit negotiations. The Times revealed yesterday that Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, had held face-to-face talks with Oliver Robbins, Mr Davis’s former chief official, in the prelude to this month’s first-phase Brexit deal. The absence of Mr Davis from the meetings had been noted by EU officials who suggested that Mr Robbins was playing an increasingly prominent role since leaving the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) to lead a new European unit in the Cabinet Office. In that role he reports to Theresa May rather than Mr Davis.

Guardian
David Davis’s Brexit department believes Brussels is trying to undermine the government’s negotiating position by claiming he has been sidelined from talks on Britain’s future outside the EU. Davis is formally the government’s lead negotiator in the talks with the EU27, which are due to resume in the new year. Olly Robbins, the senior Whitehall official who worked in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) before transferring to No 10 earlier this year, plays an increasingly important role. But DExEU blamed Brussels troublemaking for a report in the Times that Davis had been “sidelined”, with Robbins holding face-to-face meetings with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. A senior DExEU source suggested the reports were an example of what the Brexit secretary called in his October party conference speech “offensive, indeed insulting, briefing to the newspapers, which I take as a compliment”. At the time, Davis said: “Of course sometimes the exchanges are tough, but that is to be expected.” Robbins is closely involved in day-to-day negotiations, opposite Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, with Davis travelling to Brussels to meet Barnier face to face at key moments.

Mirror
David Davis has reportedly been ‘sidelined’ in Brexit negotiations, as his former chief official takes the lead in talks with Brussels. Oliver Robbins quit as Permanent Secretary to the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) in September to take a job in Number 10. Since then he’s been Theresa May’s EU ‘sherpa’ – an emissary who quietly negotiates behind the scenes with other member states. But this morning it was reported his role has been dramatically increased in recent weeks. Unusually, the Times reports, Robbins has held face-to-face talks with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. It’s led to suggestions Davis had been ‘sidelined’, with Robbins effectively running the talks. DExEU did not deny Robbins had held meetings with Barnier, but told the Times the idea the Brexit Secretary had been sidelined was “wholly inaccurate”.

Express
MINISTERS have been warned the House of Lords could force through huge changes to the Brexit Bill over “Henry VIII power” fears as Theresa May braces herself for a showdown. The EU Withdrawal Bill will be subject to intense Lords scrutiny in the New Year, with fears Remainers could stall the whole process. Lord Lisvane warned peers could send the key legislation back to the Commons several times over their concerns. The vital legislation transfers EU law into British statute, raising fears of sweeping powers being given to the Government without proper scrutiny. Although the Lords is bound by convention not to block the Commons’ will, both houses have to agree on the legisaltion. And Lord Lisvane stressed peers had the power to ask commons to “think again” on key Brexit issues. He said: “If the bill is not further amended, then an area of concern in the Lords is going to be the largely untrammelled powers proposed to be given to ministers. “If the bill is not further amended, it would represent the largest peacetime transfer of power from parliament to the executive.”

EU

Express
THERESA May’s Government is planning a sector-by-sector trade deal with the EU in a bid to avoid a “Swiss-trap” agreement that could collapse. Ministers want to set out key industries, such as the pharmaceutical sector, where both the UK and EU will cooperate on regulations. In exchange for common standards, both sides will get access to each other’s markets. And should either side later abandon the agreed regulations, World Trade Organisation rules could be invoked. The idea is part of a bid to press Brussels into a bespoke Brexit deal, something EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has dismissed but Germany’s foreign minister has backed. Ministers say the deal is designed to avoid a “Swiss trap”, so-called because Switzerland’s EU agreement means a change in one sector could lead to the entire deal unravelling. A Whitehall source told The Times: “The last thing we want is to strike a deal that then has to be renegotiated a few years down the line.”

Times
France will demand that Britain pays for new customs infrastructure at its ports after Brexit, it emerged today. President Macron is expected to demand that the government shares the cost of building new posts at Calais, Dunkirk and other ports when he meets Theresa May next month. In an intervention that will exacerbate fears over the impact of a hard Brexit on cross-Channel trade and its cost to the public purse, a senior French official warned that Britain will be expected to help foot the bill, which Paris believes could exceed the cost of adapting the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Lorry parks, new customs agents and technology will be needed on the French side of the Channel when Britain leaves.

Ireland

Express
SUPPORT for a ‘United Ireland’ has soared after December’s chaotic Brexit negotiations. A unified Ireland, with Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and rejoining the Republic of Ireland, has risen in popularity in the Republic of Ireland through the last nine months of 2017. A new poll of citizens in the Republic has seen support for unification increase by a huge margin – even if Dublin was presented with an annual tax bill of £8 billion to cover the cost.  Financial concerns in Dublin has often been seen as a barrier to unification, which also crucially rests on support north, rather than south, of the border. 
Pollsters Ireland Thinks interviewed 1,144 people in the Republic of Ireland between December 14 and 22 with results in staggering contrast to those recorded earlier this year.  In a similar poll in March, when undecided respondents were excluded, support for unification was at exactly 50:50 between those in favour and those against. 

Labour Party

Sun
JEREMY Corbyn plunged Labour into fresh Brexit turmoil today by appearing to rule out a second EU referendum. Despite a clamour from voters, councillors and MPs to change Labour’s position, the leader said he wasn’t “advocating” another public vote. Speaking to the i newspaper he said: “We have had a Referendum, which came to a decision. “The negotiations are still ongoing, albeit well behind schedule, and we’ve set out the kind of relationship we want to have with Europe in the future.” Jeremy Corbyn’s team has been accused of being deliberately vague on Europe in a bid to prize votes from both Remain and Brexit camps. A poll on Wednesday claimed 32 per cent of Labour Remain voters believe the party is completely against Brexit – but 31 per cent of Labour Leave voters feel the party is “completely in favour” of Brexit. A group of 70 London-based Labour councillors two days ago urged Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer to commit to providing an opportunity for people to “change their mind”.

Boundary review

Telegraph
The Conservatives were denied an outright majority at the last general election because of a voting system which is slanted in favour of the Labour party, new analysis has shown. The new figures reveal that the Tories would have been left with a clear majority of 14 if the boundary reforms – which have been frustrated by Labour and the Liberal Democrats – had been in place. Changes being proposed by the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make the current system fairer would have given the Tories a small outright majority in the Commons in June’s election. The review of boundaries, which was proposed under the Coalition in 2010 but blocked at the time by the Liberal Democrats, would deliver on a government pledge to cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600. However, if the changes had been in place before the June election the Tories would have won 307 seats.

Telegraph
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “gerrymandering” by blocking reforms to an electoral system that is biased in favour of Labour and has become “an affront to democracy”. New analysis shows that 27 million voters are being under-represented by their MPs because they live in constituencies where the MP has a higher than average number of constituents, making it harder for each voter to get their voice heard. Constituency boundaries are more out of date than at any time since the Second World War, but Labour is opposing changes that would equalise constituencies in a slimmed-down Parliament of 600 MPs, 50 fewer than at present. The majority of the larger constituencies are in Conservative voting areas, which has led to claims that the system is biased against the Tories.

NHS

Times
Britain’s highest-earning family doctor is paid more than £700,000 a year by the NHS, The Times has learnt, prompting concerns over unaccountable GP “empires”. The unnamed GP was one of more than 200 to receive in excess of £200,000, and is likely to run a group of surgeries responsible for tens of thousands of patients. Yesterday patients’ organisation leaders condemned a secretive system that allows senior GPs to set their own pay without the transparency that could ensure value for NHS money. They called on doctors to justify the record earnings and said that very high pay should be limited to those who can prove they are making an exceptional difference to frontline care.

Mail
Britain’s highest paid GP was paid at least £700,000 in a year, it has emerged. The family doctor earned more than £505,000 more than the chief executive of NHS England, according to a Freedom of Information request. The average GP earns an average salary of £90,000, but doctors can earn more by linking up surgeries, making record earnings by managing tens of thousands of patients. 
Figures revealed more than 200 ‘Super GPs’ in the NHS earned more than £200,000 a year in 2015/16. Four were on salaries between £400,000 and £450,000 while 11 were paid between £300,000 and £350,000 a year.

Independent
The NHS is facing a crisis over the number of available ward beds, according to analysis by the Labour Party. Official figures show that in the last year, 90 per cent of hospital beds were listed as “occupied”, which is higher than at any point under the Conservative or coalition governments, and far above the “safe occupancy rate” of 85 per cent. A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We do not set standards or targets for bed occupancy as we recognise that all hospitals operate differently and we expect them to manage their beds in way that works best for local patients’ needs.” Meanwhile, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed that hospital car parking charges generated £175m last year. Labour claimed that 46,993 patients have been stuck in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes already this winter, with 9,775 having to wait longer than one hour to find a bed.

Mirror
Calls to axe crippling NHS car parking charges grew last night as it was revealed hospitals made a record £175million from staff, patients and visitors last year. 
The rip-off fees were branded a further tax on the sick after they soared from £164million in 2014/15. And the figure could be even higher as only 111 of 120 trusts released figures – which showed people being hit with fees of up to £4 plus fines if they stay over their time. Disgracefully, 56 of those trusts charge the disabled to park. Tory MP Robert Halfon led the pleas for  Theresa May to scrap the fees, which made hospitals and private firms almost £500,000 a day. He said: “If we value our hospital staff, we should allow them free parking.” Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb added: “Hospital car park charges are a tax on sickness.”

Child grooming

Breitbart
The Metropolitan Police force “could be sitting on a Rotherham-style sexual grooming gang situation”, a London Assembly Member has claimed. The accusation, from UKIP group leader Peter Whittle, comes as a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services reveals that Scotland Yard failed to properly handle 90 per cent of recent child protection cases. Earlier this month, the Met’s most senior officer responded to concerns by claiming grooming gangs had been part of British society for “centuries”. According to 
The Times, the UK’s largest police force is now worse at helping and protecting children at risk of sexual exploitation and rape than it was a year ago. Inspectors reviewed a random sample of 135 cases in November concerning various types of abuse, including possible child sexual exploitation, missing children, and domestic abuse. Almost 93 per cent were said to be “inadequate or required improvement” and there was a “disappointing quality of investigations and outcomes,” as well as 18 cases that were sent back to the force for further investigation, the report found.

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